Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Healthy Eating is a Hard Sell

From the Atlantic.

"It's not as though consumers can't find health-friendly goods when they go to the supermarket. In a survey conducted for the report (with support from the Food Marketing Institute), 72 percent of respondents agreed that the store they go to "stocks a wide variety of healthful foods and beverages." They're less impressed, though, with the store's utility as a source of information and guidance on healthy eating -- particularly among shoppers who have kids in the household."


"Among all respondents, well under half (38 percent) said their store "provides information on foods and beverages that help manage specific health concerns." And that tendency isn't confined to consumers who may not be disposed to notice such information even if it's there. Even among those who claim to eat healthy meals "most days," just 44 percent said their supermarket provides information of that sort."


"One thing consumers do know about healthy foods -- or, at least, think they know -- is that such products are pricy. Seventy-seven percent of respondents to Catalina's polling agreed with the statement, "Healthy foods and beverages generally cost more." If anything, people have an exaggerated notion of the extent to which such a price differential exists. Sharon Glass, who led the study as Catalina's vp, health and wellness, speculates that respondents "may have had in mind the relative price premium of fresh fruits and vegetables or lower-fat packages of fresh meat," though she adds that the survey didn't inquire into attitudes about specific food categories.

In any case, she notes, there are plenty of healthy foods that don't cost more than the less-healthy alternative. "In many categories, the lower-calorie or lower-fat options marketed by a given product are [priced] the same," she says. "Examples include soft drinks, shelf-stable and refrigerated juices, hot dogs, milk and dairy products in general, salad dressing, mayonnaise and yogurt."

For many consumers, one deterrent to choosing healthy foods and beverages is the old assumption that if something is good for you, it probably isn't very tasty. Overall, 59 percent of respondents said they believe "healthy foods and beverages generally taste good."


"Sampling can be an effective way to overcome the barrier of negative taste perceptions."


"Coupons would also help consumers give healthy foods a fair try: More than four-fifths of respondents said coupons for such products would "encourage healthy shopping" on their part. Along with things like shelf labels that identify healthy products and reward programs for purchasing such goods, coupons could help get through to consumers who resist changing their diet because they believe (often for no good reason) that it's already healthy enough. Sixty-two percent of the survey's respondents said they "eat healthy."

Wenchypoo's take on this subject:

1. WE ALL have to make major adjustments in our tolerance and taste for sugar and salt. This is mainly what makes processed foods "taste" better than raw healthy foods. Processed foods are full of chemicals and flavorings that have completely altered what we've come to expect our food to taste like.

2. What makes us think the grocery store's going to give us different advice from the USDA Food Guide Pyramid or marketers?

3. You shouldn't be seeking nutritional advice from a grocery store--get it from your doctor or (better yet) a nutritionist. Grocery stores exist TO SELL US FOOD PRODUCTS, and they don't care about our health. They just want to sell us stuff.

4. Regarding the cheapness or expense of healthy foods: You can either pay the cost up front (and come away with fewer doctor bills), or you can pay later (by buying the cheaper food and paying the doctor to clean up after them). Consult my Food Stamp Challenge Cheats to get a sense of how to eat more cheaply and effectively.


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